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New Paleontology Cabinetry Installation Completed!

September 11, 2017

Written by Jacob VanVeldhuizen, Paleontology Collections Technician

Picture of newly installled white cabinets.

Installed row of new cabinets.

It is with great pleasure that I say we have finally finished installing the new cabinetry in the paleontology collection. It took us six months and eight days to remove approximately 350 old specimen cabinets and install 142 new specimen cabinets in their place. Both the removal and installation process ended up being simpler and took a lot less time than expected.

Picture of a newly installed cabinet without a center divider. Inside the cabinet are boxes containing fossils

Larger cabinet without center divider.

The old specimen cabinets were removed by having someone push a cabinet from a row onto the forks of a forklift. The forklift then lowered the cabinet and set it on the ground where a separate group of people maneuvered the cabinet into a holding area. The old cabinets then remained in this holding area until a museum looking for cabinets came and got them or were taken to State surplus to be sold. Once a row of cabinets was removed, the old wooden base was chopped up and thrown out. The area was then swept and vacuumed.

Picture of a larger cabinet with center divider. Inside the cabinet are boxes containing fossil clams.

Larger cabinet with center divider.

After cleaning the area, a row of new specimen cabinets was installed. First, we had to install the larger cabinets, which were easy to move around with a pallet jack as they came with a metal pallet base. These pallet bases also meant that we didn’t have to install our own separate base for the new cabinetry to sit on.

Photo of three summer interns using an orange pallet jack to install a new large cabinet (left side of image).

Summer interns Elizabeth Altier, Mark Reyes and Chilea Dickson installing one of the larger cabinets.

The trickiest part of installing the larger cabinets was making sure that the row they were creating was straight. This required a lot of measuring, line drawing, eyeballing, and rearranging before the row was finally set. Next, we had to install the smaller cabinets on top of the larger cabinets. This involved using a group of people on the ground to push the cabinet on to the forks of a forklift.

Picture of a woman sitting on a yellow and black forklift giving a "thumbs up." On the front of the forklift is a smaller cabinet. e

Lilly Ridley from Facilities using a forklift to help us install one of the smaller cabinets.

The forklift then lifted the cabinet to the top of the row where a separate group of people caught and maneuvered the cabinet into place. The smaller cabinet was then secured to the larger cabinet using a series of self-tapping screws. Overall, it took about a day and a half to remove and install a row cabinetry.

Photo of the team installing one of the smaller cabinets on top of a larger cabinet. A man in a blue shirt is using a yellow and black forklift to lift a white cabinet onto other white cabinets.

The team installing one of the smaller cabinets on top of a row of larger cabinets.

After a row of new cabinets was installed, the fossils then needed to be transferred to their new homes. This was by far the most time consuming and arduous task of the cabinetry installation process. The transferring of fossils required moving nearly 147,000 specimen’s drawer by drawer. Some of these drawers were packed with numerous small fossils, each in their own individual box, while others had large and extremely heavy ones. Once a row was filled with transferred fossils, we moved on to the next row and repeated the process.

Photo of a man in a green shirt pushing a cart full of Pliocene whale ear bones (foreground), next to woman in overalls leaning against white cabinets.

Summer interns, Elizabeth Altier and Mark Reyes, moving a drawer full of Pliocene whale ear bones to new cabinetry.

Next Up: Rehousing. Now begins the task of rehousing the fossils using archival materials and boxes. This task will also help us look for and treat fossils in the collection that are suffering from Byne’s and pyrite disease, a subject for a future blog post.

Trish and I couldn’t have completed this new cabinetry installation without the help from these fine folks: Elizabeth Altier, Khai Button, Chilea Dickson, Madison Dillard, Mark Reyes, Lilly Ridley, Dick Webb, Michael Burch, Janet Edgerton, Jeremy Jones, Aaron Giterman, Lindsay Zanno, Lisa Herzog, Haviv Avrahami, David Button, Jason Bourke, and Jens Kosch. Thank you for all your help!

Lastly, if you or someone you know would like some old specimen cabinets let us know. We have approximately 98 cabinets left up for grabs. Email myself or Trish if you are interested.

This project, the Paleontology summer interns and the Paleontology Collections Technician are fund by a National Science Foundation: Collections in Support of Biological Research (NSF:CSBR) Grant to the Paleontology Unit at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.


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